This has been bugging me for some time now, but it’s getting worse of late.
I met a fellow editor about a year ago when we did a joint blog appearance. We didn’t interact; we just both answered a set of interview questions. No biggie, right? Always good to meet a fellow editor.
Lately, she’s been soliciting help for certain questions of grammar. Basic questions. Things that any editor ought to know in her sleep. Things that ought to be second nature. That were covered in fourth grade, for crying out loud.
I have probably taken to seeing it once a week over the past couple of months. Someone new hanging out their editor shingle. Glad to have you on board; the world needs good editors. Let’s chat and work together. We’re all in this together and while I’d love to try, I simply can’t edit for every writer out there. (nor should I; finding a good editor is like finding a good pair of jeans. You gotta try a bunch on first.)
Saying, “I had to learn how to write academic papers in algebra 1 and my prof insisted we know how to self-edit” doesn’t make you an editor, folks.
Saying, “I have a degree in English” doesn’t make you an editor, folks.
Not knowing grammar conventions doesn’t make you an editor, folks.
Authors, when you are looking for an editor, please vet them carefully. One of the other trends I’m seeing of late is really really cheap prices (lack of comma intentional). A complete novel edited for $50? Seriously? Up to 90,000 words — something that would take me ten days to do properly, at a cost of anywhere from $450 (for a proofread) to $990 for a full content edit, is a job you’re willing to do for less than $100?
Do you not have a mortgage to pay?
Sadly, I do. And groceries to pick up, and utilities to maintain. Clothes to buy for growing kids, not to mention to replace my own wardrobe, most of which has holes in it. (Yes, check that sentence… has holes in it. While we’re talking in general about clothes, the phrase refers back to the word wardrobe, which, as a collective noun, requires the singular. Does an editor who learned language in med school know that? If they do, can they explain it to you?)
Authors, keep this in mind: you often get what you pay for. And while I’m still on the inexpensive end for an editor of my caliber, my rates are competitive. With me, and with other editors I know out there, you get more than what you pay for.
That’s the editor you’re looking for.
Spend your money wisely. Vet your editor. Send him/her a sample of your work. Any editor worth your project will happily do a sample for you.
So what DOES make a good editor? Check out this post by my mentor, Theresa Stevens. She blogs at Edittorent, one of those blogs that all writers should read, especially the archives.
In the meantime, I’m done answering that other editor’s questions on Facebook. I’ve got a backlog right now and clients waiting on me, and while I’d love to be your teacher and mentor, I simply don’t have time. If you don’t know these basic things, you have no business calling yourself an editor and maybe you should look for other work.
It’s harsh, yes, but it’s better than getting yet another e-mail from an author that starts off with, “I hope you can help me. I’ve paid over a thousand dollars for editing and the editor…” — invariably, the editor wasn’t very good and the author, at their own expense, has to start the process over.
While these authors — and I’ve heard this from numerous clients now — aren’t buying into the cheap brigade, they’re still heartbroken. And worst of all, they begin to doubt the value of an edit. Maybe, they think, they should pay Kirkus that same money for a review. A review which will probably include the phrase “better editing would have made this a better book.”
Think about it.